Transitioning out of the military and back into civilian life can be pretty overwhelming — and no one should have to brave this rocky terrain alone.
DAV (Disabled American Veterans) is a nonprofit charity that is committed to keeping the promise made to our nation’s heroes: Their sacrifices would be met with gratitude and support.
One of the ways in which DAV offers its support is empowering service members and providing them with opportunities for success in the workforce. DAV recognizes how valuable service members are to society and knows how to connect them to employers in such a competitive job market.
Not only does the organization act as a resource for employment opportunities, but it also assists in obtaining the health care benefits that veterans and their families deserve.
“DAV assists veterans with more than 250,000 benefit claims annually. In 2017, DAV helped secure more than $4 billion in new and retroactive benefits to care for veterans, their families and survivors. DAV employs over 260 national service officers who are ready to review your medical records, help you establish your disability rating, set up health care benefits, and connect with services that support your civilian life,” said Navy veteran and We Are The Mighty host August Dannehl.
Beyond just helping veterans directly, DAV also focuses on educating the public about all of the sacrifices made by our service members and the the support needed for them to comfortably ease back into civilian life.
“DAV works on Capitol Hill as a highly motivated, knowledgeable and respected advocate for veterans,” continued Dannehl.
Check out the video below for five ways that DAV will aid your transition out of the military:
We Are The Mighty is proud to partner with DAV, the leader in lifetime support for veterans.
Look out Navy, the tides are turning – the Army Black Knights are ranked #23 going into the 2018 Army-Navy Game. The AP Poll puts them at 23 while the Coaches Poll puts them at 24. The last time Navy was ranked going into the game was the 2017 game, where the Midshipmen were ranked 25. They lost that game, but the year prior, the Mids were ranked 21 and pulled out the W, topping Army 21-17.
A pre-game ranking seems to mean very little to Navy, but for the Black Knights, it could be a game-changer. The last time Army came in ranked was in 1996, when they were #23 — and won the game 28-24
Now, a #23 ranking may mean little to the NCAA powerhouse teams in Columbus, Tuscaloosa, or Norman, but at West Point, it’s a big deal. As the Plebes get ready to meet the Mids this year in Philadelphia, there’s a lot on the line for the Black Knights. After topping Air Force on Nov. 3, the Army is in a position to win its first back-to-back Commander-in-Chief trophy ever while beating Navy for the third year in a row.
The last time Army extended a multi-year winning streak over Navy was in 1996 – which happens to be the last time they came into the contest as an AP Poll-ranked team. In their snowy 2017 win over the Naval Academy, the Black Knights secured their first Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy since — you guessed it — 1996.
The stars might be aligned once again for the Black Knights. Air Force took down Navy 35-7 on Oct. 6, which means Army can be the clear winner with a victory in Philadelphia on Dec. 8. If they lose and the trophy is shared, the previous winner retains the trophy but… c’mon. No one wants to win by default. That’s not the Army way.
This year’s Army team is playing without West Point standout Ahmad Bradshaw, whose collegiate career ended with last season’s incredible win over Navy. The quarterback left West Point as the academy’s number five all-time rushing leader. His replacement, Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., has stepped well out of Bradshaw’s shadow, leading the Black Knights to a 9-2 record and a #23 spot on the AP Poll.
Bradshaw is now a leader in the U.S. Army as Hopkins leads the Army West Point team to its third ranking season since 1963. This is Army’s third winning season since 1996, and the Plebes seek to make it their second 10-win season in two years. Their last L came on Sept. 22, in a crushing overtime loss to Oklahoma, 28-21.
No shame in that — especially because the Black Knights went on a 7-game winning streak afterward.
It’s great preparation for the biggest game of the season – just look at last year’s Army-Navy Game.
The 2018 Army-Navy Game presented by USAA takes place on Dec. 8, 2018 in Philadelphia at noon Eastern.
Looks like it’s about time to get back to the grind, guys. Grab that razor and shave off that poor excuse for a block-leave beard because Uncle Sam is about to get his dues again. You got all the warm and fuzzies from telling your family and friends you’re in the military, but now it’s time to do actual military stuff again.
On the bright side, next week is going to be lazy. While you’re slugging through the motor pool, know that you’re not alone —your chain of command is in the same boat. They just can’t show it since, ya know, burdens of leadership and all.
Oh? You thought the 100% accountability urinalysis was to “ensure good order and discipline?” Hell no. Your NCOs want to get out of PT just as much as you do.
Here’re some memes to help bring you back into the military mindset:
Jack Eaton enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1937, the same year the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier started being guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. His height and the excellent skills he displayed in training got him selected to be one of the first Tomb Sentinels, guarding the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 2019, he was the oldest living Tomb Sentinel, and he made a visit to the remains he once guarded day and night. Even at 100 years old, he could remember that the precision and the strict discipline of the current guards hadn’t changed much since he walked the same beat.
Eaton guarded the tomb between 1938 and 1940. At age 100, he was still walking, either unassisted or with the help of a cane.
“Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a very important part of my life,” Eaton told DoD News.
Except, he says, the changing of the guard occurred every two hours back then, as opposed to every one hour now. Eaton said the Army made the change so that more visitors to Arlington would have the opportunity to catch it.
There were other significant changes in the years since Eaton was a Tomb Sentinel. Today, the guards have a barracks under the cemetery amphitheater to sleep in while on duty.
“We didn’t have that underground facility back then,” he said. “We were stationed at Fort Myer.”
Eaton’s name is on a plaque along with the other volunteers who guarded the tomb over the years, his time on watch came before the 3rd Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard,” took sole responsibility for posting guards in 1948.
Since that time, The Old Guard has only accepted the best of the best volunteers from the Army. They must pass a rigorous training regimen, pass a series of tests that focus on attention to detail, and face 200-point uniform inspection. They can be booted from the training for just two uniform infractions.
Eaton’s enlistment ended in 1940. But the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II brought Jack Eaton back into the Army. Eaton returned to where he was stationed while guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, nearby Fort Belvoir. His old commander remembered him and sent him to train as a welder in Washington state.
After training, Jack Eaton was sent to England, where he and a teammate were assigned to repair heavy machinery used to repair runways on Royal Air Force airfields. The machinery, he says, broke down a lot.
As the Allied advanced against the Axis and moved into Western Europe, Jack Eaton moved with them. He was in France and Germany as the United States moved westward and the war ended.
He left the Army in 1945, along with hundreds of thousands of other men, eventually starting up a profitable residential window business that allowed him to retire at age 55.
“My advice for service members these days?” he said. “Honor the pledge you took, do the best that you can, don’t shirk your duty. And try to do better every time.”
Eaton sadly passed away at age 101 in 2020 after contracting COVID-19 before hip surgery in Burton, Michigan.
My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.
Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.
My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.
But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.
Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.
Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.
Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.
And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.
My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.
My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.
I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.
From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.
I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.
After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.
She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.
Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.
My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.
Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?
The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.
In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Department of Defense
In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.
I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.
And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.
I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.
I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.
We love the commissary for so many things: their low, low prices, the friendly baggers who maintain an excellent poker face when you can’t find your car, the guarantee that if you’re wearing something nice you’ll run into no one and the day you have on sweatpants while your kids are losing their shit, you’ll see everyone you know. Ah, the commissary.
And now, here are 10 more reasons to love this perk. They have game day recipes.
Set it and forget it with this easy recipe that will surely impress your guests as much as a Mahomes comeback. Cook on low for seven hours or high for four, these lovely three pounds of meat are a gift that will keep on giving throughout the night.
If you’re feeling extra fancy, skip the store bought salsa and make your own. Since tortilla chips will almost definitely be on sale this weekend, give them the love they deserve with this easy to whip up dish.
We love a good casserole. It says “I tried and I love you, but I just didn’t really have time to roll individual enchiladas.” This is a classic with enough spice to keep it entertaining but mild enough that even the whiny nephew who always seems to be there, will eat it.
Tomatos, mozzarella, basil. These look fancy but they are something your 2nd grader could put together (from experience). The nice pop of color adds a little balance and nutrition to all of the cheese things you’re going to have.
No matter what branch you served in, this salsa is something you can get behind. With a sweetness from the peach but the spice from the jalapeños, you can eat this with as a dip, a topping on a steak or in your bed with a spoon like it’s ice cream. Like the baggers, we’re not here to judge.
What game would be complete without chili? Put it on your hot dogs if you like the meat sweats or eat it topped with cheese and Fritos and sour cream. You can’t go wrong with chili and this is a winner.
Being in the military is hard. I served in the military for 13 long years, and I know how demanding and exhausting that job is. But, do you guys want to know what’s hard too?
Being a military spouse.
Being a military spouse comes without a title, without a rank, without the specialized training, and most of all, without the brotherhood that accompanies the life of an armed forces member and that, my friends, is not easy. Out of all the jobs that I have done in my life, and believe me when I say that I have had my share of challenging and insanely stressful jobs, being a military spouse has been, by far, the most difficult one.
I still remember when I became a military spouse 21 years ago. By the time I became Mrs. Morales, I was already a hard-core soldier. A soldier that had been trained to go to war, trained to kill, trained to survive in the most difficult situations, but also trained to save lives. Yes, I was trained to be a combat medic in the Army, a job that I enjoyed doing with all my heart, but one thing the Army never trained me for was becoming a military spouse, which I became when I was just a 20 year old kid.
U.S. Army Spc. Leo Leroy gets a kiss from Regina Leroy and a bow-wow welcome from dogs Yoshi and Bruiser at a homecoming ceremony on Fort Hood, Texas, Nov. 28, 2009.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sharla Lewis)
My friend, the spouse of a Foreign Service Officer, asked me once how it felt to be a military spouse, especially during war time. When she asked me that, I realized that, as much as I wanted to tell her how it felt, I didn’t have the words to express all I wanted to say, so I froze, and after a while, she changed the topic and I never got the chance to give her an answer to her difficult question. But, now that I think about it, I do have an answer.
Military spouses come from all backgrounds, and all of us characterize ourselves as strong individuals who are not only capable of running a household by ourselves, but who are also experts at making miracles out of nothing. I’m sure that most military spouses out there will agree with me. But, those of you who are not military spouses may be thinking, what’s wrong with that? Well, let me tell you.
Have you ever been in a position where being strong is the only choice you have even when your entire world is collapsing on top of you? Well, that’s what military spouses do every single day, and the difference between our service members and us is that, we don’t get trained for such challenging job. We are just expected to perform the job and move on.
As a soldier, I had many great and challenging experiences, but nothing could ever compare to living at home as a military spouse. There were many times when my husband was overseas when I questioned my commitment to the military, and no, I don’t mean my commitment as a soldier, I questioned my commitment as a military spouse.
Capt. Lucas Frokjer, officer in charge of the flightline for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, reunites with his family after returning from a seven-month deployment with HMH-463.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)
I still remember the time when my husband was sent to West Africa for 18 months. Those 18 months were the longest 18 months of my life. At that time, I was not only serving in the military myself, but I immediately became the sole caregiver of three children, who needed my full attention and my full support, but three children who also used to go to bed, every single day, crying because they didn’t know when or if their father was going to come home again.
How did I survive those 18 months under those circumstances, you may ask? Well, let me tell you; I became a functional zombie. A zombie who was able to keep three children alive, keep a household running while serving in the military herself, but most important of all, able to stay strong amid all the challenges that came into her life during those 18 months. Challenges that I had zero control over them, but that I knew I had to overcome not only for the well-being of my children, but also for the sake of my marriage. And again, that’s a job I was never trained for.
The bottom-line is, Marielys the soldier was a very strong individual, but Marielys the military spouse had to be even stronger. I wasn’t trained for this job, but I did it proudly so that my husband could go and serve his country without having to worry about anything other than the mission he was assigned to do. And for that, I can proudly say that I am not only an Army veteran, but I was also A Badass Military Spouse.
Marielys Camacho-Reyes formerly served for 13 years in the US Army, first as a Combat Medic and later on as a Human Resources Manager. She also served in the US Army for 21 years as a Badass Army Wife. She is currently a stay home mom and a member of the Vet Voices Program in Central FL.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Wyatt Knox is a rally car driver who has won some awards racing across North America, but at the Team O’Neill Rally School, he trains drivers who will likely never win or even compete in a sanctioned race: military service members and others who drive through dangerous areas of the world where they might be attacked.
Pro Driver Shows Off Tactical Driving Techniques | Tradecraft | WIRED
Now, before you watch this video and then try to go and do all these maneuvers yourself, most of the skills Knox teaches are very much in the don’t-try-this-at-home territory.
At the school, Knox teaches skills like driving fast in reverse, J-turns, pit maneuvers, and more. The idea is to fill the proverbial “toolboxes” of deploying soldiers, Marines, and others with everything they might need in places like Fallujah, Kandahar, and other locations.
Driving down a street and you suddenly see a probable ambush? You could push through the kill zone, but if you have enough space, you could also come to a quick stop and then drive backwards as fast as possible to get away from the attackers (while your buddies call for fire on their position).
Or maybe you’re pursuing an high-value target, but they’ve got human shields in their vehicle, or you need to be sure that you capture them alive for intel purposes. Well, then the pit maneuver is made for you. Spin out the baddy’s car and try to take them down non-lethally.
Knox gives quick instructions in this video to give viewers a rough idea of what’s going on in their favorite parts of driving movies like The Fast and the Furious. But, again, don’t try this on your local city streets. At best, you’ll receive a well-deserved ticket.
By the way, the video is part of Wired’s “Tradecraft” series where experts in fields like combat and espionage break down skills essential to their career or former job. You can see more here.
In 2007 I was a fresh-out-to-pasture journalist, trying not to lose my sanity as an Army wife and stay at home mom. I had worked most recently as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, but my husband, a Special Forces soldier, kept getting deployed. We couldn’t afford a nanny, and no daycare in town stayed open late enough to watch our son until I could get off work.
The Observer offered me an opportunity to write a blog and two weekly columns from home, and that’s how I came to meet Mike Giglio, a fresh-out-of-college writer for Charlotte Magazine, working on a story about military families at Ft. Bragg.
But back in 2007, he came to my house, sat in my living room, made the requisite comments about the adorableness of my toddler, and interviewed me. He has since told me that I was the first person he had interviewed about war. He has interviewed many, many more people since. He wrote then:
Rebekah Sanderlin looks like an Army wife from a movie: the hero pulls out her picture in the opening scene, she has dark hair, engaging eyes, and a warm smile, she’s holding his kid, and you’re already hoping he makes it out of this thing alive.
12 years and as many deployments later, my husband and I are still married and, indeed, he appears to have made it out of this thing alive.
I followed Giglio’s career from a distance after that, watching as his byline hopped up to the big leagues and then across the ocean, first to London and then to Istanbul, and then right into the heart of war.
Now a journalist for The Atlantic, he spent four years living in Turkey and Syria, interviewing members of the Islamic State, their enablers, and legions of others who were pushing back against ISIS’ terror quest for power, embedding with U.S. military units as well as low-level groups of resistance fighters.
His book is part memoir, part chronicle. We see the early movements of ISIS in the form of sources and scoops that grow into defeats and victories. He is unflinching in the descriptions but avoids the war-porn tendencies lesser writers find irresistible. There are no heroes and no villains, only humans showing up, day after day. Characters come and go, lost to war and the swirling chaos of life. There are no neat and tidy endings. This is news – news never ends.
His sparse, direct, writing style is appropriately like chewing on broken glass. A book about ISIS shouldn’t be overwrought. There’s too much gore, too much horror, too much human misery, for a writer in love with adjectives. No one needs those adjectives.
Of an Iraqi Special Forces soldier, he writes:
“So when militiamen kidnapped Ahmed from a checkpoint in Baghdad one day, they didn’t just torture him. They put a circular saw to his forehead and tried to peel off his face. Then they put a hood over his head, shot him five times, and tossed his body in a garbage dump, thinking he was dead. Ahmed survived, though, and was found by an elderly man, who carried him to a hospital. When he recovered, he had gained his nickname – The Bullet, for what couldn’t kill him – and he returned to his turret.
These are not pages to read before bed.
Giglio is captured and nearly executed, and he survives being hit by a suicide bomber. He sets these encounters on the table, like an indifferent dinner party host, as if to say, “Here it is. Make of it what you will.” And, of course, there is only one thing to make of it: ISIS is even worse than you thought.
I read Mike’s book during the vacant, pedestrian, moments of my mom-life. Sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class, reading about the young Syrian mother who watched helplessly as a wall collapsed on all four of her children during a bombing. In the front seat of my minivan, parked at the high school, waiting for that once-toddler-now-teenager, reading about a man whose seven siblings were all killed by ISIS. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room while a friend’s wrist was being x-rayed, reading about ISIS fighters gathering body parts from numerous people into one duffel bag, only to leave the bag in the middle of a street.
I read about Mike, being zip-tied and beaten by a jeering mob in Egypt, before being thrown into a prison bus and carted to a sports arena, where sham trials and public executions were being held for political prisoners. And then the zip ties are cut from his wrists and he is inexplicably released. I think about the cub reporter I first met in my North Carolina living room, as eager for adventure as any young soldier.
He is in Iraq, embedded with a battalion from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) in Mosul when the results of the 2016 election are announced, and Americans of all political persuasions are melting down. He writes:
“I wondered if, when a country was at war for so long but only a select few ever waged it, the rest of society began to go a certain kind of crazy. Some played at civil war while others vowed to flee to Canada as political refugees, and too many Americans seemed to want to pull a bit of conflict into their lives just when so many people around the world were risking everything to escape from it.”
And then he finally escapes it himself, perhaps for good, writing this about then-new President Trump’s premature declaration of victory over ISIS: “As in the past, America was looking to move on from the region before the war was really over – leaving much of Iraq and Syria in ruins and ISIS still a threat. This was an impulse I embodied, too. As Colonel Arkan had once explained, the thing about going to war far from home is that you can always walk away from it.”
If you’re lucky, Mike. Only the lucky get to walk away.
Seeing the world is just one of the many reasons for joining the military. But what if dreamy vacation living was possible within the continental borders? Taking advantage of what is possible within a day’s drive is one way to save thousands on airfare and explore more of what our country has to offer.
Strategize your next PCS choice with these staycation worthy locations. From the beaches to the mountains, and east to west, settling into ‘home’ at any one of these installations is easy to do.
Mountain Home AFB, Idaho (Air Force)
Nestled at the foot of the Sawtooth Range, and within a half day’s drive to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, Mountain Home AFB is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. There’s world-class skiing at Sun Valley in the winter with plenty of roadside accessible hot springs along the way. Idaho isn’t on your radar because she’s everyone’s best-kept secret.
NAS Whidbey Island, Washington (Navy)
Craggy coastlines, tide pools teeming with sea life, and million-dollar views are how to describe this installation just over an hour north of Seattle. The barrier islands of the Puget Sound are home to seductively slow island life, away from traffic, and a ferry away from Olympic National Park or the San Juan Islands. Watch both whales and submarines surface from one of the dozens of state parks by the fire and on the beach.
Fort Carson, Colorado (Army)
Located just outside the Garden of the Gods, this Army Installation is another ruggedly beautiful spot to call home. The state exudes adventure in all terrain types, like sand dunes, snow-capped peaks and breathtaking arch formations. Colorado experiences all four seasons, providing a little something for every preference. Your PT test is sure to stay on point during the winter season with infamous ski resorts like Breckenridge and Telluride to choose from.
Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia (Air Force and Army)
What we love about JBLE is the easy accessibility to all the major east coast metropolitan cities. Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City are all a connected train ride away. National history, monuments and bustling nightlife make life on this coastline more than noteworthy. In addition to city life, Virginia is home to Shenandoah National Park and fall foliage, which draws crowds year-round. Tapping into history or the political pulse of the country are all possible here.
MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina (Marines)
Life in the low country is slow and sweet. The tidewater region is situated between Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, two historic southern towns rich with seafood and charm. A subtropical climate provides beach access year-round, with plenty of sunshine to boost any mood. Another point to love is the affordability of the region compared to other, more high-cost stations, putting more vacation dollars into your pocket.
Sector Key West, Florida (Coast Guard)
The southernmost point in the continental U.S. is as beautiful as you can imagine. Dolphins, coral reefs and sailboats are all at your doorstep, which is likely oceanfront. Lesser known, yet completely noteworthy interests like the Hemingway Home and Dry Tortugas National Park are also found here. Key West also boasts several shipwrecks to explore in turquoise waters, making a dive certification a card you need in your wallet.
It’s all about location, and there’s plenty to choose from during your military career. Europe and Hawaii are not the only prime spots to be had, and this list is proof. Experiencing life in varied climates and states provides a perspective unlike any other when the time comes to settle down after service.
The military has a lot of official and unofficial awards for when tragedy strikes. Soldiers saved by their helmets often receive sections of the helmet after it is studied. Troops hit by enemy weapons get Purple Hearts. And aviators flying for the Army are awarded “Broken Wings” when they manage to avoid a crash or crash safely when tragedy strikes in mid-flight.
The Broken Wing Award dates back to March 1968, and it has been awarded to hundreds of air crewmembers and pilots for avoiding crashes or minimizing the damage resulting from them.
In 2016, Navy aviator Ms. Barbara Gordon became the first sailor to earn the award when she took part in a training flight with an Army pilot. They were practicing an exercise on just one engine in a UH-60L Black Hawk when that engine failed, and the helicopter began to fall at almost 12,000 feet per minute. In that emergency, the two pilots had to take turns taking certain actions to save it, but they managed to do so in the only five seconds they had to avoid a deadly crash.
The award is typically given for in-flight emergencies caused by mechanical failure or environmental factors, though the guidelines for it do say that enemy action isn’t a disqualifier. While receiving the award is considered an honor, it’s not something anyone hopes for.
Maj. Gen. Joel K. Tyler, commander of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, presents the U.S. Army Broken Wing Award to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sylvia Grandstaff.
(Collin Magonigal, RTC)
“I appreciate the award,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Hagerty while receiving the award for saving his helicopter after a cardboard box went through the engine. “I don’t think I want to earn another one though.”
The helicopter had suffered engine failure, and the pilots had to carefully tip the helicopter over a cliff and then use the speed and power from the fall to reach a safe landing spot and do a “roll-on landing” where they have no power left to flare and hover, so they touchdown and roll to a stop instead. So, a controlled crash off of a cliff. No one wants that.
And no pilot wants to face any of the situations that result in a Broken Wing Award nomination. Not the crash off the cliff, not the midair power failure that Gordon suffered, not the midair crash that Odum and Desjardins survived.
An aircrew member must, through outstanding airmanship, minimize or prevent aircraft damage or injury to personnel during an emergency situation. Aircrew member must have shown extraordinary skill while recovering an aircraft from an in-flight emergency situation. If more than one crewmember materially contributed to successful recovery from the emergency, each of those involved should be considered for nomination.
Each in-flight save by Army aviators represents lives saved and airframes preserved. Obviously, the lives are more important than the helicopters, and occasional plane (the Army has very few planes, so the award naturally goes predominantly to helicopter pilots), but each helicopter saved does represent millions of dollars saved by the Army.
It’s the award no one wants to earn, the Army doesn’t want to have to give out, but each time an aviator gets their broken wings, lives are saved, and aircraft stay in the fleet.
It’s now been a couple of years since my husband retired from 31 years of active military service. I was along for the ride from the beginning, as I met him mere months after he arrived at his first duty station.
We were so young when we married (19 and 22), and I had no idea what I was getting myself into — no, I really didn’t. I hear so many military spouses say the same, even if they grew up in a military family. Being the spouse of a service member is such a unique experience. In the past two years, I think I’ve gained some hindsight and perspective in looking back at those decades of military life, and I’m thinking about what I wish I’d known, what I’d do differently, what surprised me, and what I’m glad for.
Whether you’re a brand new milspouse or nearly at the end of your journey too, see if any of this resonates with you. And I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.
What I wish I’d known
1. Not to underestimate the effect military life would have on our family.
While by this point in the military spouse world it’s been drilled into us how important it is to create our own identity, pursue our own dreams and passions, that we’re not just military spouses (all good things, of course), it does no good to pretend military life won’t have an impact on the spouse and family. It will have an effect, whether it’s where you’re living, how much you see your spouse, if your kids will change schools numerous times, or the rest of the family stays put while the military member moves. It isn’t just another job, one that can be picked up and put down at will. It’s a completely different way of life.
U.S. Army Sgt.1st Class Danny J. Hocker, assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment is embraced by his family during a welcome home ceremony in Vilseck, Germany, Oct. 23, 2008.
(US Army Photo by SPC Pastora Y. Hall)
2. To not look back with rose colored glasses.
Whether location, friends, a church, or community, lingering too long on the things I loved from past assignments did not serve me well in the early days at a new base. While it’s important to grieve and take stock before moving on, at times, dwelling on what was carved out a hollow space within me that refused to be filled with the new. This led to prolonged times of loneliness and disillusion that I think might have been shorter if I hadn’t played the comparison game.
3. To take care of myself.
I think younger spouses these days may have a better handle on this than I did, but I had to learn the hard way that the world would not stop spinning on its axis if I took a nap, planned a walk alone, or said a firm no to the latest volunteering opportunity so that I could make self-care a priority more often.
4. Friendships won’t look the same, and that’s ok.
Back to comparisons. It just stinks to say goodbye to the best friend you’ve ever had and be forced to start over again. Sometimes it’s easier to just…not. It’s exhausting to lay the groundwork for friendships and community connections, knowing it’s temporary anyway. But I wish I could tell young me that making room for others, whether they resemble any friend you’ve ever had or would even look for, is important and can also be surprising.
5. Don’t wait for people to make the first move or make me feel welcome.
There’s no sense in standing to the side and expect people to bring the welcome wagon to you,because you’re the new one after all. Sometimes you have to be brave first.
6. Not worry so much about how our kids would turn out.
I spent a lot of needless worry on this one. A lot. This is not to say that military life isn’t hard on kids–it is. But I had way too many sleepless nights on this. Of course, making sure my military kids had the resources they needed was important and I’m glad I gave attention to that. Heck, maybe they did turn out as functioning adults because I worried so much? We’ll go with that thought.
(US Army photo)
7. To make space for my husband again at the inevitable end of military life.
I’ll be honest–I wish I had done this better. While you’re in the thick of military life, it’s hard to believe it won’t always be like this. And while I gave lip service to how glad I’d be when he’d be home again regularly, no longer deploying, and become a regular part of the household after literally years of separation, the transition to civilian life was a little bumpier than I’d expected. I’d so carefully groomed my independent side for years (I had to, to survive), that creating space for him and for us as a couple was a much bigger adjustment than I’d expected.
What surprised me
1. How glad I am for the hard times.
They changed me, my perspective, and how I relate to others. It sounds cliche, but I wouldn’t have grown or appreciate life like I do now without the losses and pain that walked hand in hand with years of military life. I’m not sure I would have learned that lesson so well otherwise.
2. The utter relief that came with the end of his military service.
The knowledge that we wouldn’t ever have to move again unless we choose to, that I won’t be holding down the fort as my husband deploys or leaves for training, or that military life will no longer define every detail of our existence struck me the day the words “you are relieved from active duty” were spoken at my husband’s retirement ceremony. I didn’t realize how heavy that weight was until it was gone.
Capt. Joe Faraone reunites with his wife, Suk, Jan. 15, 2014, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.
3. What I’d miss.
The instant camaraderie, the shared experiences with other military families can’t be understood unless you’ve been there. The unique language, the dark sense of humor that comes with the “deployment curse,” the understanding of what we all go through is hard to replicate. Hearing the notes of reveille played basewide to start the day, the National Anthem at the end of the duty day, and the heartbreaking sound of Taps each night — the sadness of which will forever make tears gather in my eyes–those are some ‘little things’ I still miss. The travel, the adventure, the not knowing what would be around the next corner? Yes, I miss that, too.
4. How strong I am. How strong we all are.
One reason I stay involved in my work with military spouses is because it’s now part of me. Military families are a special breed. Military spouses have my heart, and will forever. I have witnessed families go through unspeakable things, times that would crush a normal person, and come out stronger and also willing to reach out and help others going through the same thing. Whether it’s creating a non-profit to make life easier for other military families, embracing their entrepreneurial spirit and start a pop-up business at a desolate duty station, or simply rolling out of bed each morning to tote kids to school and themselves to work while their spouse serves hundreds of miles away….you inspire me every day.
My husband retired after 31 years in the Air Force. Shortly after, I stumbled across this poem and felt it was written just for him…for us.
The Last Parade
Let the bugle blow
Let the march be played
With the forming of the troops
For my last parade.
The years of war and the years of waiting
Obedience to orders, unhesitating
Years in the states, and the years overseas
All woven in a web of memories.
A lifetime of service passes in review
As many good friends and exotic places too
In the waning sunlight begin to fade
With the martial music of my last parade.
My last salute to the service and base
Now someone else will take my place
To the sharp young airmen marching away
I gladly pass the orders of the day.
Though uncertain of what my future may hold
Still, if needed-before I grow too old
I’ll keep my saber sharp, my powder dry
Lest I be recalled to duty by and by.
So let the bugle blow
Fire the evening gun
Slowly lower the colors
My retirement has begun.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Concluding its third year in November 2018 and set to occur for a fourth year in 2019, the annual Gold Star Hunt gathers Gold Star children, their Families, active-duty service members, and retired service members to hunt for game on and off post.
Gold Star Families are those Families who lost a military service member during a period of conflict, and the hunt is coordinated by Mark Moore, a retired command sergeant major and now operations chief for Installation Management Command at Fort Benning.
“These Families had a soldier who was lost, but these Families are still a part of the Army for life, as far as we’re concerned,” said Moore. “I think it’s important to continue to reach out to the Families to let them know that the Army still cares about them.”
Moore was a command sergeant major of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning and deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He feels a personal obligation to Gold Star Families.
Moore became interested in forming a Gold Star Family hunt after meeting with the son of a military service member who, like Moore, was browsing the hunting section of a large retail store. Their mutual interest in hunting led Moore to conceive the weekend hunt idea.
“A lot of the people that volunteer for the program, especially myself, have lost soldiers in combat, and it’s important for us to be able to give back to those Families who have lost a soldier,” he said. “There’s goodness in it in both directions. One, the Family has a good time. The kids gets to experience something that dad would have wanted to do if [he] were here. And the soldiers and retirees are able to give back after experiencing loss themselves.”
In this file photo from 2016, volunteers present hunting gear to children of fallen service members during the inaugural Gold Star Hunt at Uchee Creek at Fort Benning, Alabama.
(Photo by Mr. Patrick Albright)
Moore coordinated volunteers, on-post organizations and off-post corporate enterprises to deliver this weekend event. He reached out to the local offices of Survivor Outreach Services of Morale, Welfare and Recreation to get in touch with Gold Star Families to determine whether the Families were interested.
Megan Baumgartner, Benning’s SOS coordinator, commended Moore’s dedication.
“Mark pours his passion of hunting and heart for mentoring Gold Star Children into every detail of this event,” said Baumgartner.
Alonzo Stewart, a financial counselor with SOS, said he has seen the positive impact the hunt has had in the lives of its participants.
“To partner with a person like Mark Moore and the different retirees and active-duty soldiers, to see the need to support these kids, is just great,” said Stewart.
In addition to coordinating with SOS, Moore also reached out the MWR to reserve cabins at Uchee Creek on the Alabama side of Fort Benning. Corporate sponsors provided funding for the event to get the Gold Star children a hunting kit, which includes rifle, ammunition and more. Local restaurants donated food to the event. The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, a tenant unit of Fort Benning, zeroed the rifles and provided a shotgun demonstration for the Families. And volunteers from units across post took part in the hunt with the children. Gold Star Family members who do not take part in the hunt get to visit the 34-foot towers at Eubanks Field on main post, thanks to volunteers from the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
The first year in 2016, the hunt had six children participating. The second year, it was 10. So, in addition to the hunt on post at Fort Benning, there was an additional hunt that took place at Iron Horse Farms in Marion, Alabama.
The children hunt deer and feral pigs on post. Moore said the hunt was a success as most of the participants were able to bag a deer or pig. He also said the hunt was successful as far as gaining community support.
“We’ll do it as long as we have support to execute the hunt for Gold Star kids as long as we have Gold Star kids out there,” said Moore.